By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer
(Walhalla, SC)———————————-Last week, officers with the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office went through a course in domestic violence training which was taught by two representatives of Safe Harbor and Sergeant Kevin Cain, who is the domestic violence investigator with the Sheriff’s Office.
“CDV: Beyond the Basics” was the name of the Safe Harbor training to assist Law Enforcement’s Response to Criminal Domestic Violence and was taught by Carrie Pettit and Ester Griffin-DeVita of Safe Harbor. The training went through what is the definition of domestic violence, statistics, the causes of domestic violence, what are the roles and thinking of the victim and perpetrator, and safety planning. Sergeant Cain praised the training provided by Safe Harbor and says the training was needed especially as several new officers have been hired by the Sheriff’s Office.
“We’ve got several new officers that have come on board and the training is to get these guys on the same page that I am on. They don’t get to take the time to look at a case like I do. I get to do a lot of detailed case work. Criminal Domestic Violence is my predominate position among other things but I wanted to share with them what it takes to make a good case so we can win these cases. We have great officers at the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office that do a great job but we all have room to improve.”
“We go to court with these cases a lot of times and that is our goal is to do a good job in court,” according to Sergeant Cain. “And our main goal is to make sure that our victim is protected and feels secure and we have done everything we can for them, offering certain things like orders of protection and information about Safe Harbor.”
One of the biggest aspects of the training provided to the officers was discussing why victims respond the way that they do sometimes, what they have been through and what to expect and how to respond to them so that the victims will be responsive to the help of law enforcement. The training was especially important, according to Sergeant Cain, due to the dynamics of domestic violence regarding victims and offenders and the understanding of that dynamic.
Another significant aspect of the training was discussing with officers what information Sergeant Cain needs from the scene should they be called out on a domestic violence call. Sergeant Cain went through a Criminal Domestic Violence protocol with those who attended the training, which provided a step by step process of the facts and evidence and information that is needed.
“The protocol goes through several things,” according to Sergeant Cain,” including sworn written statements, the photography part of the case, seizure of any weapons if we have the ability to do that, the Miranda rights aspect of the case, what information do they need to send to me, how to do a detailed incident report and the types of information that needs to be in that report. Also, I sent out minimum requirements for CDV statements because I like to have good statements. A statement needs to be like a story in that if I have never met you, never heard about what took place in that incident, then I can read that statement and get a pretty good idea of what that victim or offender is saying.”
A point of emphasis in the war on domestic violence by Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw has been to seek maximum fines and penalties for offenders, but also with victimless prosecutions as well where if the victim does not want to pursue charges further or refuses to testify, the case can proceed with good evidence. This training, according to Sergeant Cain, will help in that regard.
“A lot of times with a Criminal Domestic Violence case if you don’t obtain the evidence you need on scene we can’t get it after that the next day,” according to Sergeant Cain. “A lot of these victims will change their minds for certain reasons which is what we went over in this training and it is very understandable why they do that but sometimes we need to move forward and make an arrest and prosecute a case without their cooperation because of other circumstances of fear and things that are in that victims mind and they are afraid to cooperate. So if we get what we need on scene when I can’t get it the next day if it is sent to me then a lot of times we can move forward with that case and have a good case.”
Safe Harbor continues to make plans and raise money to open the first domestic violence shelter in Oconee County, but Safe Harbor is ready to help victims of domestic violence right now. The 24 hour crisis hotline number for Safe Harbor is 1-800-291-2139. You can also visit the Safe Harbor website for more information at www.safeharborsc.org.